Human Origins main content.

Human Origins

Since a Neanderthal skullcap was discovered in 1856, thousands more fossils have helped paleoanthropologists piece together the story of our ancient ancestors, from early hominins who lived more than six million years ago to modern Homo sapiens, who evolved 200,000 to 150,000 years ago.

In the 1990s, geneticists joined the effort, using DNA to shed light on how modern humans are related to one another and what makes our species unique. When did we develop a capacity for symbolic thought? Why is understanding our evolutionary history so important? Groundbreaking research underway across the Museum and around the world is tackling these and other questions about what it means to be human.

VideoSciCafe: Flipping the Genetic Switch Research Human Relative’s Foot a Step Towards Modern Walking The bones of newly discovered Homo naledi were made for both climbing trees and walking upright. October 6, 2015 Permanent Hall Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins Trace millions of years of human history, from early ancestors who lived more than six million years ago to modern Homo sapiens. Blog Post Body Size Not A Factor In Human Origin Story A new analysis of the body size of early humans and our relatives suggests that the first members of the genus Homo—which inc... August 5, 2015 Video Human Ancestor Went Out On A Limb Bones reveal that ancient human relatives were part-time tree dwellers. Audio Humans as Animals In this podcast, Frans de Waal will explore the similarities between humans and other primates in power politics, transmissio... August 6, 2015 Blog Post Human Evolution and Why It Matters: A Conversation with Leakey and Johanson Celebrating decades of groundbreaking exploration in East Africa, renowned paleoanthropologists Donald Johanson and Richard L... May 9, 2011 Video Our Ancient Relatives Born with Flexible Skulls Fossil gives a heads-up on the origin of flexible infant skulls. Video Expedition Rusinga: Uncovering Our Adaptive Origins Scientists reconstruct the environments of our primate ancestors. Video Neanderthal Genome Sheds Light on Humanity Genetically speaking, how close are we to Neanderthals? Game Tools of the Trade How do you find a place that's been lost for more than 300 years? Take up this challenge, and learn what it took for archaeol... Video One of the Earliest Primates Is Identified In a Chinese quarry, scientists discover the oldest known fossil primate skeleton. Blog Post Ancient Shark Fossil Reveals New Insights into Jaw Evolution New study, led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, shows that living sharks are actually quite advanced... April 16, 2014 Video Rare Skull Sparks Debate About Our Ancient Relatives Is our family tree due for a pruning? Video Early Migration for Modern Humans Ancient fossils suggest modern humans populated Europe earlier than once thought. Article Jewels of a Creative Mind   Video Neanderthal DNA Persists in Humans Neanderthal traces appear in genes for hair and skin.